Recovering Place

Why Place Matters edited by Wilfred McClay and Ted McAllister As a Southern man living in New England, I think often about place. My bookshelf betrays my interest in the my home region, displaying I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition alongside Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces, Faulkner’s The Unvanquished, and O’Connor’s The Habit of Being. I speak frequently about life south of the Mason-Dixon, from its “Yes, ma’am” and “Praise Jesus!” to its heavenly cuisine and natural… Read more

A Place for Liturgy

In his book Word and Church Anglican theologian John Webster writes, “At its best… attention to ‘context’ can remind theology that there is no pure language of Zion, and that theology’s conceptual equipment is borrowed from elsewhere. But at its worst it is a form of mental and spiritual laziness, an unwillingness to admit that theology must go about its own business if it is to speak prophetically and compassionately about the gospel to its neighbors.” In other words, when… Read more

Apocalypse Now and Then: America, Rome, and The City of God

The late Fred Phelps made his Westboro Baptist Church famous by being as outrageously offensive as possible. Perhaps the most universally reviled of Phelps’s many controversial tactics was the picketing of military funerals. Waving signs reading “THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS,” Westboro disciples made not only a political statement but a theological one as well. According to Phelps, the deaths of American soldiers signified God’s judgment on a nation that had abandoned the Christian religion by tolerating homosexuals. The vast… Read more

Seeing Through Jazz, Darkly

Being a Christian artist—or an artist who happens to be Christian, or however you want to taxonomize it —can make you feel a bit like Odysseus. Caught between the Scylla of earnest preachiness and the Charybdis of vague nothingness, how do you create art that is meaningful but not pedantic, rooted in a Christian vision but not overbearing? Visual artists and writers must struggle with this continually, but perhaps the answer is a little easier for composers, whose chosen medium… Read more

The Curse of Calling and the Myth of Creativity

The word “calling” has the power to elicit eyerolls and sighs – a cliché of the worst kind. Though it stirs up deep desires to commit to a higher purpose and raises hopes for divine guidance, it also awakens the profound confusion within our culture and the church around personal identity and the meaning of a good life. Consider this grating email invitation to a Christian leadership retreat on calling, all too typical: As you consider how 2013 ought to… Read more

Divergent’s Big Missed Chance

What would happen if a group of people dedicated themselves to the pursuit of a particular virtue at the expense of all others? That is the question Veronica Roth explores in her popular dystopian novel Divergent, the movie adaptation of which has just come out on DVD and blu-ray. Given the DVD release and how well the movie did at the box office, it’s an opportune time to take a look at how the society Roth constructed rests on a false conception of the… Read more

Timeless Moments: Memory, Time, and Eternity in T.S. Eliot and Wong Kar Wai

This is the use of memory: For liberation – not less of love but expanding Of love beyond desire, and so liberation From the future as well as the past. -T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding” Released every ten years, the Sight & Sound poll of the hundred greatest films ever made is often considered the most authoritative list on the matter. Given its long view of film history, the poll tends to favor movies that have been around long enough to gain permanent critical… Read more

The Unprepared-For Death Is Not Worth Dying

The traditional Litany of Saints ends with a series of petitions to God that he might “save his people” from various things: evil, sin, the snares of the devil. Among them is also the entreaty to be saved, freed (”libera nos”), from “a sudden and unprovided death.” Much of traditional piety understood death, that ultimate moment of human existence, as one in dire need of grace and attention. In the last petition of the Angelic Salutation—better known as the Hail… Read more

The Way, It’s True, Is a Life

A recent pilgrim recounts some of his impressions coming home from walking 1,000 miles on the Camino de Santiago. I begin with the end. Just after I got into the car, there was a crash. I had finished my pilgrimage two days before this, on the Feast of All Saints, and then on All Souls Day I had explored the rainy city of Santiago de Compostela. Now on this morning, November 3rd, a generous pilgrim friend was waiting for me… Read more

The Culture We Live in

A Field Guide to American Houses: The Definative Guide to Identifying and  Understanding America’s Domestic Architecture by Virginia Savage McAlester Food/Clothing/Shelter Of the well-known basic physical needs, “shelter” generates the most durable artifacts. You can see clothing from Colonial America in museums, and there are ways of finding old recipe-books, but you’ll almost never see a person wearing two-hundred year old pants, and you’ll certainly never find and eat leftovers of such age. Yet there are still people who live… Read more

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